Comprehensible Input

Fall tends to be a time of reflection for me. You would think it would be summer, being a teacher and all, but fall is my favorite season and is when I feel the most “me”, so to speak.

My favorite things about fall:

  1. Cool weather (although this year it is STILL in the 80s everyday – weird, Kentucky!)
  2. Hoodies and sweatshirts and jeans
  3. Leaves and general natural beauty (I drive through several farms on my way to work and it is gorgeous!)
  4. Great food – potato soup, grill outs, etc.
  5. Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Mochas without sweating to death
  6. Football!
  7. Lazy Saturday mornings
  8. A renewed sense of enthusiasm
  9. HARRY POTTER WEEKENDS! Although, when DON’T we celebrate Harry Potter?
  10. Anticipation of three major holidays (Okay, so Christmas isn’t a part of fall, but I start anticipating it in the fall and planning/prepping)
  11. The return of the school year and finally starting to feel settled in with my new kiddos
  12. And a NEW favorite this year: a three-week long fall break.

Yep, you read that last one right. My new (old? since I student taught there) school district starts on August 1st and makes up for the early start with three weeks off in October. It’s like the holy grail of school schedules. Just when I’m feeling overwhelmed and having a hard time accomplishing all of my goals (due to lack of time), I get three weeks off. It’s amazing.

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This is an awful picture of my classroom (especially since I had everything disorganized from painting) but it shows the fun new colors!

I spent the first week of my break at school, of course, but with MUCH less pressure. I helped some kids get caught up (Total aside: we do this awesome thing called EXCEL, which is like summer school but instead of waiting until the end of the year, we catch our kids up at the end of every quarter and try to give them the tools to succeed in the remaining quarters. Doesn’t this make SO much sense???) and I painted most of my giant classroom. I now have a deep plum front wall and bright, light blue other walls. I also grabbed everything I need to work from home over the next two weeks. Sure, I’ll still go in a few days, but I can sleep in a bit and I’m already feeling much more relaxed.

This year, I’m working my TAIL off. I’m teaching K-12 French, which has been a dream of mine for quite some time. It’s a ton of work, though. To my knowledge, I’m running the only elementary French program in our state (the other one listed is now a Spanish program). That means resource availability is scarce and I don’t really have many people to plan with. I did meet several Spanish elementary teachers at a conference this fall which was awesome and helped me get a better idea of what a good program looks like, but the big issue is this: everything I “knew” about teaching languages has changed. In three short years.

Sure, everything has been changing for awhile, but I wasn’t connected to people who knew and/or cared about the transition. I had no idea how comprehensible input was going to change my teaching. But now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it. Now that I’ve experienced the research in action, I can’t possibly go back.

Comprehensible input, or TPR/TPRS teaching, is all about natural-style language acquisition, sped up for the classroom. There is so much research to accompany this style of teaching, but the big point is that I’m changing everything about how I teach. And you know what? Before I even fully committed to it, it started working. You see, I kind of made the change at the beginning of this year based on my experience as a third grade teacher last year, which showed me a lot more about how to be an effective teacher. The kids have responded amazingly. I’m continually impressed with how much MORE they can do and produce than my former, traditionally-taught students. And they aren’t even on a full CI program!

The downside is that I have a lot of work to do. But, I had a lot of work to do regardless, so it is really learning more about being a better teacher and doing different work than I had originally imagined.

Still, even with working a ton, I’m sleeping in, seeing my family more, taking naps, drinking wine, hanging out on Facebook and Pinterest, and getting things settled for the rest of the year so I will be less stressed for the rest of the year, and that is completely priceless.

I LOVE MY JOB.

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My Biggest Weakness

I love my blog, but I often neglect it because I have this vision of being one of the “big” blogs, even if it doesn’t always line up with things I want to post. So I’m getting back to basics. As I have time, I will still post recipes and cheat sheets and home things and invitations, but only when it is really something I want to post.

Today’s topic: My biggest weakness.

Yes, I’m opening up to the interwebs.

My biggest weakness is passion. You didn’t expect that one, did you? Passion can totally be a weakness, and it is frequently mine. I have this strong desire to be passionate about everything in my life, and I feel called to be passionate about a multitude of different things. It makes life difficult because my plate is always overfilled, and something always gets sacrificed. I feel like I can do anything with hard work, and I do try to do everything, but deadlines always seem to fall at the same time.

Sure, there are upsides to passion — taking appropriate risks, getting big payoffs, feeling creatively fulfilled, and having many loyal friends. But it is hard to say that passion is always worth it when I find myself prioritizing a passion at a time when something else needs to be more important, but can’t be due to time constraints. People often talk about the Pinterest syndrome, but I was bitten and smitten by the over-the-top passion bug a long time before Pinterest or even blogs were popular.

I’m crazy because I want to experience it all and learn for myself. And I expect nothing less than everything from myself. I’m hard to live up to. I have to face internal struggles about saying no. I have serious anxiety about failure, but even worse anxiety about missed opportunities.

At the end of the day, passion brings me a lot of trouble. It also brings me a lot of fulfillment and oftentimes, the ability to serve others.

So, getting back to basics: what’s your biggest weakness?

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September Goals Update

It’s time for a goals update! I had a few minutes today to add to the blog (something I haven’t had time to do lately) so I figured it was about time some kind of new content went up. I actually have a LOT to highlight over the next few weeks, but it probably won’t happen until October when I’m on Fall Break.

Travel

1. Visit MawMaw and PawPaw over Spring Break.

  • This is definitely going to happen! One of my best friends is getting married over break and we’ll be heading down to North Carolina anyway, so we are just going to hop down to Florida, too.

2. Do an overnight getaway, just me and the Hubs

  • More info on this later πŸ™‚

Family/Couple

3. Family beach trip with both boys

  • We will combine this with our spring break trip.

 

Financial

10. Raise credit score to certain amount to prepare for moving, buying new cars, and buying a house (again, same as above)

  • We bought one car in June! We traded in my little car for a nice, roomy minivan (that I absolutely love — I don’t care about the stigma!)

Personal

23. Post to the blog every 2 weeks (reasonable considering new job)

  • Well, I did well with this until the middle of August, so I’ve really only missed two posts. But things will get better in the upcoming weeks as I get a chance to get ahead!

 

Professional

29. Make it through this school year! My dream job is amazing, but it’s also going to be a tremendous amount of work for the first few years.

  • I’m making it! I really, really, really love my job! Even when the work is hard or overwhelming, I love it every day. I even find myself saying out loud when I get out of my car each day that I love my school.

30. Teach in the target language for 90% of instructional time

  • Okay, so I’m sitting at about 60% right now with serious plans to increase my usage. It is proving more difficult than I imagined in the rotational and special area classes.

32. Sell $100 worth of products on TPT

  • I sold $10 worth in August! It’s not much but it is most definitely a start πŸ™‚

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A Day in the Life

I’m really only writing this post for me. So sorry in advance. Lifestyle post and such.

A day in the life of me right now is… interesting. exciting. exhausting. very full.

(Yes, I know all of those periods should be commas, or I should at least capitalize the words. Beh.)

4:30 am – Wake up. Seriously. Grab Colin from the crib. After a week of waking him up this early, he hears my approaching footsteps and smiles really big, which makes getting up 15 minutes early to nurse him totally worth it. We head back to my bed where I nurse him while relaxing for a few more minutes, and I read a really sweet email from my husband from after I went to bed last night.

4:45 am – Put Colin back in his crib (thank God he’s a quick nurser!) and head back to my bed. My hair doesn’t look awful, so I grab 15 extra minutes of sleep even though I just slept 8 hours (last night was thankfully a night I could go to bed at normal time).

5:00 am – Hit the snooze. Nine more minutes of heaven. Probably a bad idea but I totally don’t care.

5:10 am – Grudgingly turn off my alarm on my phone. Take my medicine and realize there is no more iced tea left. Darn! I have enough pop at school to make it through the day, so I microwave some water for hot tea while I fix my hair (that’s a loose term on this fine morning) and get dressed. Luckily, I was thinking about what to wear while nursing, so that at least was easy. Pack my lunch, make my tea, and head out. You can probably tell by now that I’m not a morning person!

5:30 am – In the car “early” today! I have to leave no later than 6:00 if I want to get to school by 7:30 AND there is absolutely no traffic, but I don’t like those odds and there has been a bit of construction lately, so 5:45 is on-time and 5:30am is normal. Turn up Q102 and wait until 6am for Jeff and Jenn to start.

6:00 am – See a giant black dog on the side of the windy, country road and in my sleepiness scream out, “It’s the grimm!” Obviously I’m a little too obsessed with Harry Potter.

7:00 am – Arrive at school. Usually I sit in the car for 5 or 10 minutes and put on makeup, but today was just one of those days. I head up to my room and realize that I left my desks in a huge mess and that I have very few plans since it’s the beginning of school and I’m still forming and shaping this new French program. I start my day, thanking God that I have first period planning and a chance to wake up until I’m not so grumpy that I can’t carry on a nice conversation. An administrator drops by to let me know that 100 (yes, 100!) kids have signed up for French Club during club time, but she was nice and didn’t overwhelm me, so I have 20 kids who will be joining my club starting tomorrow. I’m speechless. Who knew languages could be cool?

8:40 am – My kindergarten class arrives, and by this time, I’m nice and caffeinated. Somehow I’ve also managed to plan for the day, type and print materials, make all my copies, and rearrange my desks in a new order. Go me! My K kids today are excellent and not too scared of all this brand new French craziness I keep saying to them. I also see a second grade class after them and prepare to switch gears for middle school.

10:30 am – Time for my middle school exploration class. They do a great job with their impromptu conversations even though they are nervous to get up in front of the class for the first time. My class rug comes in during this period! Yes! I unroll it during the next period (French 1) while they are working on their journals (bellringers). I’m happy that it’s only the fifth day of school and I’m using 80% immersion yet they understand me fairly well. I’ll beef it up in the next week or two as we get deeper into vocabulary they’ll need.

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1:15 pm – Time for fourth grade, so I’m switching gears again. They are too smart and catch on too quickly so I need to beef up my curriculum. As I’m teaching, I make a mental note to start the next section in their class as soon as possible. After that is third grade, and finally my LAST intro to French class. I’m glad that I can finally put this lesson away and start focusing on other things for the next week.

2:45 pm – French 2 kids arrive from the high school and help the third graders with me until they leave at announcements, and then we start their class. Since there aren’t many of them, we sit on the rug (their suggestion lol) and continue our review/revision of French 1. School lets out for K-8 at 3:00, but we go until high school dismissal, which is 3:30. This is the easiest class for me since I’ve taught it so many times and since the class is small, so I can be more casual. It’s nice to end the day with something I feel completely comfortable with.

3:35 pm – The Fr2 students leave, and I actually have a bit of energy, so I finish my afternoon snack and work for a bit. I discover a ton of new teachers and resources on Edmodo. Yes! I don’t have a ton of elementary resources, so this is actually super helpful.

5:00 pm – Crap. It’s later than I like to leave because of the drive. I pack up and head out. I stop half-way home for gas, but I talk to my mom for the first 2/3 of my trip as she is driving home, too, so it passes quickly. I spend the last 1/3 listening to Canadian French radio on Sirius XM.

6:30 pm – Time to hit the print shop since my invitation printer is broken. It’s a quick process since they are getting to know me pretty well, haha. Head home to my family but stop on the way for more tea bags (see: start of my day).

7:15 pm – Get home just in time for dinner (thanks, babe!) and sit down with my family. Colin is in the swing, so I catch up with Clark and Jason and spend a few minutes just hanging out with Clark.

7:45 pm – Nurse Colin before he goes to bed and play with him for a bit. He’s got some huge smiles for me, though, and I try to capture them on camera. Here’s the best one I got since everything was shaky. He looks a little crazy, haha. Put him to bed soon after.

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8:45 pm – Say goodnight to Clark after hanging out with him again for a few minutes and pull out my laptop. I really shouldn’t write this blog post, but it’s rather cathartic and I need a few minutes to myself, too, that aren’t in a car.

And here’s how the rest of my night is going to go:

9:30 pm – Gotta hop in the shower even though I’m exhausted and just want to sleep. If I shower and blow dry my hair tonight, it will be good for two days and I just need a quick refresher shower tomorrow night.

10:00 pm – Cut invitations, print postage, and box them up for shipping. If I feel like I can stay awake at all, I’ll at least make a to-do list for tomorrow, but I’m hoping to work at least for a little bit.

10:45 pm – Go to bed, hopefully. It’s going to be only 6 short hours until I wake up tomorrow.

 

Honestly, with all the driving my life is a little too full right now. But would I trade it? Absolutely not. I love, love, love my job and even though the drive STINKS, it’s only temporary. Moving will come at some point and it will all be better. And besides, Fall Break is only 7 weeks away, so I will have 3 weeks to catch up and plan ahead pretty soon. Then things will be much better. And with the support of my amazing husband, who is somehow keeping up with full-time grad school and two kids as well as job applications, and looking forward to my sweet babies getting excited when I come home everyday, who could really complain? It’s complicated, but I’m also blessed in so many ways.

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Know Before You Buy: Big Hugs Elmo Review

This is a review of Big Hugs Elmo by Playskool. I received this product free through BzzAgent for the purposes of reviewing it; however, all opinions are my own and are not influenced by the company.

Clark is almost three, and while he is familiar with Sesame Street and Elmo, it isn’t his favorite franchise (he prefers the cast of Disney Junior characters). I was interested in seeing how he would react with this Big Hugs Elmo toy knowing his preferences. He surprisingly took to him almost immediately.

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When I unboxed Elmo to prepare him for my child’s use, I found it to be fairly easy to set up. I liked that they used paper “strings” to bind Elmo instead of those awful plastic ones. I recycled mine after the fact. All I had to do after that was access the battery port by separating the velcro, unscrewing the cover, and adding batteries. I flipped his switch to “play” and he was ready.

I played with Elmo first to see how he worked and found that without the instructions, he wasn’t always intuitive. The hugging motions were a bit awkward because his mouth doesn’t move during some of the hugging bits. It was a tad creepy considering that his mouth moves most of the time. It didn’t seem to bother Clark, however. He’s pretty used to playing with Scout[[ASIN:B0080M1GX0 LeapFrog My Pal Scout]] and his mouth doesn’t move, so I imagine that is why. My son took to Elmo very quickly, and while he was a little concerned about hugging him at first, he loved the imaginative play and was hugging him in no time.

At first, Elmo’s arms seem very fragile, and I could definitely envision my son breaking this toy rather quickly. That concerned me a bit since the retail value is more than I would generally spend on a toy unless it was a birthday or Christmas item. But after playing with him for awhile, Clark seemed to not break him or mess him up, so maybe I’m a little overcautious in that respect. Also, the box containing his animatronic parts doesn’t have enough padding at the bottom in the back, so I’m waiting for him to smack it on his head at some point.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed how lively this toy was. It strongly encourages and supports imaginative play, affection and care, and physical movement. These are all essential to his growth and development, and I appreciate that they are integrated especially because I am a teacher. The specificity of the way the mouth and arms move in tandem with the words was a refreshing sight since it more closely mimics the natural movements we make ourselves than other animatronic toys. Clark insisted on bringing Elmo along for his weekly trip to his grandparents’ house.

On another hilarious note, as a teacher I thoroughly enjoyed the cardboard cutout of a boy that came with the toy. I’m totally going to use him in my classroom! I think he may become a way to post announcements or little fun French phrases on my whiteboard, haha.

UPDATE: Six months later and this toy is still going strong. I take back everything I said about it possibly being flimsy. It’s solid and not going anywhere. Our oldest son is super destructive on toys and yet Elmo still looks perfect! Anyone who knows him knows that that is seriously saying something!

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